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What to Do Now to Ward off Fraudulent Donations

Section: Blog

Guest Columnist: Marc W. Halpert, egiving

Online donations are designed to be easy for donors to use. Unfortunately they can be easy targets for thieves too, seeking a testing place for stolen credit card data to make false donations, hundreds of them in a flash. There is an upswing in nonprofits being attacked online. When you discover your donation site has been compromised, you feel vulnerable, lacking full control, and worst of all, have to explain to your management and Board why this happened.

Here’s what can happen:

The thief purchased thousands of stolen credit card records on the internet and blasted that data at your website donation page, hoping some would succeed. Then knowing which few credit cards actually did work, he goes off to another website and uses them again, for a higher amount, perhaps this time for electronics or other items. The game is over when the cardholder’s bank notices the card has been used irregularly and cancels it. Thieves seem to start with small dollar donations at nonprofits, under bank radar screens for meaningful fraud transactions. They are hoping nonprofits are not as aware of their bank account activity and cash flow as are for-profits. Wrong assumption, but this is the mentality.

In retrospect, when you are tested with fraudulent donations, your online donation mechanism functioned fine; you didn’t set the controls on your gateway and donation page tightly enough. (A gateway is the online service that links a donation page to the merchant accounts. It’s also the place where the current day and historic donation data is stored for bank account reconciliation and statistical purposes.)

Before this happens to your organization, consider procedures to prevent and control future abuse (easily accomplished with the assistance of your merchant account and/or gateway vendors).  Give careful forethought to implement some, if not all, of these:

  • Set a minimum dollar threshold on your gateway to preclude small bogus transactions (in recent cases, 7 cents or $1.03) from slipping through.
  • Address verification service (AVS) must be enabled on your gateway. You want the combined house number AND the 5 digit zip code of the cardholder to match the AVS algorithm used by the card brands to successfully process a card.
  • Some well-regarded gateways allow you to block computer IP addresses in selected foreign countries. As an option you can set the gateway to reject all but those in the USA, if appropriate for your donor base.
  • Ask your web developer to identify the thief’s IP address. Set the cart to recognize that IP address in the future and automatically direct him to a government website (like
  • Think about including a CAPTCHA or “I am not a robot” challenge-response test as well. You want a human to make a donation, and these block fraudulent robo-processing.
  • Be sure donations are reported to multiple email boxes so at least one of your fellow staff will notice immediately if a vulnerability occurs. If staffers work outside of the office, be sure transaction notifications buzz on their cellphones. Thieves assume you are not watching and can work their mayhem on weekends and in the middle of the night.
  • Some strong gateways use artificial intelligence and report to you anything that seems awry. They work 24x7x366. Be sure you can heed their warning to multiple staff cellphones at any time.
  • Manually reverse every successful transaction that doesn’t belong to you via the gateway refund function (immediately!). Your fee for a chargeback (when a consumer declines a purchase by starting a documentary process with his bank to reverse the card transaction) is usually $25. Prevent being hit with $25,000 in charge-back fees if you receive 1,000 7-cent fraudulent transactions!
  • If you have a concern, contact your merchant account salesperson immediately so he/she can advise you how to best notify the fraud experts of the online payment vendors you use. There are established fraud protocols that card processors and gateways follow.
  • Finally, review your transactions at least daily. Pay attention to which ones failed, look for patterns of odd transactions and report them immediately by phone, not via an online service ticket, for fastest servicing.

I hope you never need to use these controls, after the fact. Heed this advice to tighten controls now, align with best-in-class service vendors who have your ongoing security top of mind, and ask them to help you become better protected. Nothing is foolproof but you need a procedure in place to be able to react quickly if this does indeed happen to your nonprofit.

For 15 years, Marc W. Halpert has made a point of providing nonprofits the customized design and service for secure online donations, gala ticketing, membership dues payments, event registration and specialized payment technologies that make sense for YOUR organization’s particular needs, with expert attention to detail. For more information or to contact Marc, click here.

Putting Donors to Work Can Help You Raise More

Section: Blog


Does your organization have a major donor who has reached a giving plateau or, even worse, decreased his or her contribution level? Perhaps that’s because you are only asking for money. Investing major donors in your organization — personally, can lead to greater financial investment.

One of the primary mistakes non-profits make is assuming major donors would shy away from volunteering. Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority explains that, given the right opportunity, established donors might be thrilled to pitch in. Hands-on experience will lead to a better understanding of your organization’s mission, yielding a deeper connection. This can translate into a greater financial investment. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and re-ignite your donor’s passion for your work.

Read this article in its entirety at The Fundraising Authority

Celebrating Amazing Women: Lillian D. Wald, Social Service Pioneer

Section: Blog

What do the NAACP, the Visiting Nurse Association and the Henry Street Settlement all have in common? They were all founded by nurse, author and humanitarian Lillian D. Wald. In 1922, The New York Times named Wald as one of the 12 greatest living Americans. Who was this woman who accomplished so much in her 73 years, and practically invented the blueprint for the modern-day social service agency?

Wald was born in 1867 into a German-Jewish middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio and came to New York in 1889 to attend nursing school. In 1893, after witnessing the poverty of Lower East Side immigrants, she founded the Henry Street Settlement. In an era when poor patients were routinely turned away from hospitals, Wald and her team provided free healthcare, often risking their own lives to enter squalid tenements and exposing themselves to illness. The  Visiting Nurse Service of New York broke off as a separate entity in 1944.

Henry Street also provided social services and instruction in everything from the English language to art to music. By 1913, the Settlement had expanded to seven buildings, with 92 nurses making 200,000 visits per year. Today, the Henry Street Settlement remains firmly rooted on Lower East Side of Manhattan, where it continues to service an ethnically-diverse community.

Wald was also an advocate for children, labor, immigrant, civil and women’s rights. She helped institute the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the United States Children’s Bureau, the National Child Labor Committee and the National Women’s Trade Union League.

While we could go on for pages about this leader of extraordinary compassion, there are a variety of books available on Wald and her legacy. You can learn more about the impact of settlement houses, in anecdotal format, in Anita Diamant’s best-selling novel Boston Girl.

Event Planning Versus Event Marketing

Section: Blog

While you may be an event planning pro, how would you rate yourself in terms of event marketing? Of course, the two are completely intertwined! As you plan your next charity gala, how are you and your staff getting the word out? Here are some tips from Check In Easy.

Be Online – ALL the Time: People are practically internet obsessed, so businesses need to be too. On average, there are just under half a million people per minute accessing Facebook from their mobile phones. Follow the herd and get them interested via a frequently updated special event page on which happy guests can talk up their (obviously A++) experiences and do your work for you.

Go to Video: Video is a powerful tool with a growing online audience. Create and post videos that build excitement for your event so people are inspired to take action (sign up for more information, buy a ticket, share with a friend).

Revisit Past Successes: It costs far times more money to acquire a new supporter than it does to retain existing one. Invest in courting past guests for your future events. Perhaps there are participants who have “fallen off” over the past year or two. Reach out to those people to find out why and determine if you can re-engage them.

Foster Relationships: Relationships are incredibly important, not only to you but to your guests. Participate in social media groups filled with like-minded professionals, attend events and work the room at industry mixers. Future success may lie in the hands of those you have yet to meet.

Read more on Check In Easy’s blog.


Five Fundraising Trends

Section: Blog

The winds of change keep fundraising landscapes on the move. Knowing the trends will help you stay one foot ahead. These are the top 5 Fundraising Trends, according to Arjuna Solutions.

1. Online payments are on the rise: Blackbaud’s 2014 Charitable Giving Report and M+R’s 2015 Benchmark Study both found increases of about 10% from 2013-2014. Keep in mind transaction fees when choosing services, but users are keen to donate when it’s both easier and faster. Event Journal operates on a fee-for-service model and, as such, does not charge transaction fees.

2. Millennial donors are a different breed: While they’re donating less, they’re still donating. And your best bet to getting them invested is to engage them. Embrace ambitious and bold goals, focus on emotional and compelling stories (that are easy to share) and use predicted ask amounts.

3. Digital is the new frontier: Your website needs to be professional, mobile-responsive, quick to load and interact with. Equally importantly, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media pages must be regularly populated with fresh, engaging content. While direct mail and other offline strategies will remain important, online engagement continues to grow in importance. Learn More

4. Donations 365/24/7: Younger donors do not wait until the traditional giving season to make a donation, nor do they necessarily time their donations to maximize tax benefits. Thanks to the internet you can be ready when they are: 24/7 and 365 days a year. 

5. Predictive Analytics: Nonprofits must enlist predictive analytics engine to determine willingness to donate, and ultimately use this data to generate precise ask amounts for each donor. This has been proven far more effective than open-ended or standard tiered asks. Learn More

Read this article in its entirety on Arjuna Solutions blog.

Networking Your Way to Sponsorship Connections

Section: Blog

Business networking events are happening all around you: morning, noon and night. From industry-protected, lead-generating groups to professional associations for particular fields, to chambers of commerce and executive leadership groups … business people are looking to make connections.

As a representative of a nonprofit, you can offer business people opportunities to serve on boards and committees, building their own resume in the area of community service. Once they connect and become engaged in your mission, their companies — and those of their clients and colleagues — make ideal targets for sponsorships, journal ads and honoree positions for your events.

Here are a few tips for building successful relationships via business networking:

  • Don’t be a wallflower: Don’t hang back. Remember, you have something valuable to offer these people – involvement in your cause; a market of constituents to connect with; leadership opportunities and more…
  • Ask questions: What do people do, both for business and fun? People love to talk about themselves and will often tell you things you can incorporate when it’s your turn to talk about your own position.
  • Gauge his or her reaction: Sometimes when you mention your work, a person will respond with a spark of interest. If you see this reaction, dig in and talk more. Ask what brings them to have an interest in this work. Other times, eyes glaze over or dart to where the person can move on to. Politely end that conversation and move on – there are plenty of other fish in the sea!
  • Relationship Building Happens outside the meeting: Networking encounters are kind of like speed dates … you get a sense of whether or not there’s a connection, but not much more. Real relationship building begins afterward, when you follow up – perhaps with an email expressing that you enjoyed meeting that person and inviting them to meet for breakfast, lunch or coffee for an “opportunity call.” Spend an hour or two getting to know that person. Find out what their interests are and how you can start to pull them into a relationship with your organization.
  • It’s not about instant gratification: Networking isn’t about getting something directly out of the people you meet. It’s about who they know and will tap on your behalf. For each quality relationship you build, you will open the doors to many more connections. With all of those connections and a larger pool of quality committee and board members and honorees, sponsorship commitments will be that much easier to close.

Business publications are the perfect source of calendar listings for a wide variety of networking groups and opportunities. Do your research and check the organization’s websites, many even have member lists and you can get an idea of the types and sizes of businesses represented. Go to each group at least twice and decide where you feel you can make the most ground for your own style, interests and personality.

Happy networking!

Event Journal President Karen Perry-Weinstat to Receive Smart CEO’s 2016 Brava Award

Section: Blog

SmartCEO announced that Karen Perry-Weinstat, Event Journal President, will be receiving their 2016 Brava Award. The Brava Awards celebrates the distinguished achievements of 40 of Long Island’s top women business leaders. This year’s class collectively generates more than $10.38 billion in annual revenue and employs 8,149 individuals.

“Brava winners possess the hallmark qualities of successful leaders — vision, passion,compassion, dedication, perseverance. Each winner in this year’s class exhibits these qualities in all facets of her life, from running her business to tending to her family and donating time and resources to philanthropic initiatives,” says Jaime Nespor-Zawmon, president of SmartCEO. “We are honored to recognize a group of women who are truly making a difference in the world.”

The Long Island Brava Awards ceremony on August 10, 2016, is an expected sell-out event where more than 350 local executives and guests will gather and celebrate their noteworthy achievements. Past Brava winners will also be in attendance to welcome the new class of winners into the Brava community. The event will kick off with a cocktail reception, followed by a video-packed awards ceremony and a final, inspirational toast to the female leaders of Long Island.

See SmartCEO’s website for a complete list of recipients.

Millennials: When it comes to event planning, are they really SO different?

Section: Blog

This week, we are highlighting an article from EventMB that “cuts to the the chase” regarding millennials. Spoiler Alert: They are not so different from any other type of event attendee! Instead of looking at what separates the generations, let’s look at what unites us and plan events that are meaningful … to everyone.

While millennials want to feel involved and use more technology — it’s not just millennials, it’s all of us. In this technological age, we have all evolved. The use of tech and the constant exchange on social networks is making us smarter and giving us access to information like never before. So, the way attendees experience events has shifted, regardless of gender, age, race, religion or political views.

In order to stay relevant, technology needs to be integrated into your event structure and, in today’s marketplace, there are lots of opportunities to do. So embrace event technology and use it to your advantage. Read this story in its entirety at EventMB.

How to Effectively Utilize Event Volunteers

Section: Blog

Stressing about an upcoming event? Enlisting help from volunteers can take some weight off your shoulders. They already have a passion for your mission, and they are willing to work for you – for free! But what types of duties are the “right” ones to offload? We share some suggestions from Winspire’s Ian Lauth:

1.    Auction Item Procurement: Let volunteers be your eyes and ears for securing unique and exciting items. Chances are, they have some connections!

2.    Event Check-In: Greeting guests is a significant responsibility for only the most excited volunteers. Train with them pre-event so they know the process inside and out, as well as who the VIP attendees are.

3.    Auction Assistance: During a silent auction it’s incredibly helpful to have someone on hand to answer questions and to ensure the item tables are kept neat. For a live auction, spotters throughout the audience can help the auctioneer see / hear bids and collect money or signatures.

4.    Event Clean-Up / Follow-Up: Plan in advance for volunteers who can stay behind to help break down, and others who can come to the office post-event to help you send thank you’s.

Read this article in its entirety on Winspire.

Earn Loyal Event Attendees in Five Easy Steps

Section: Blog

You’ve spent all your efforts planning the event, making sure everything is prepared and ready to go. But one thing you may not have considered yet is next year’s event! The best time to engage your attendees to return the following year is at this year’s event. Here are five ways to rally the masses to attend year after year, from Event MB:

1.    Provide top-notch customer service: From the moment attendees begin traveling to your event make sure attendees feel well informed and appreciated. A smooth event makes your attendees feel welcomed and at home.

2.    Keep it fresh: The theme and the speakers of your events should be varied. This will keep your attendees anticipating and make them excited to return. Do a survey and follow-through on changes to show you value their feedback.

3.    Provide Incentives for Repeat Attendance: Offer a discount code or special rates for signing up early for next year’s event. Give returning attendees a special name tag, which will welcome discussion of how great your event has been time and time again.

4.    Engagement, engagement, engagement: The event isn’t about you and it isn’t about your speakers. It’s all about your attendees. Be creative thinking of ways to boost involvement and opportunities for your guests to get to know one another, as well as the speakers. Use phones and screens in the venue to your benefit by hosting polls, scavenger hunts and social walls. These can be used during the presentations and throughout the event.

5.    Be your attendees’ biggest fan: No one is a better spokesperson and advocate of your events than your attendees. If you can make them feel ownership over the event, they’ll want to invite all their friends.

Click here to view this article in its entirety.